With the 75th edition of the NFL draft set to begin today - for the first time in league history the event will begin during prime time - Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll understands what's at stake.
“It’s a huge opportunity for us,” Carroll said last week at the conclusion of his team’s pre-draft minicamp. “That was an exciting aspect of coming here – that there was a big opportunity for us to get a couple big shots right off the bat.
“It’s a great opportunity for John (Schneider) as he puts together the board and gets everything ready for us and they have those two big opportunities early on.
“We’re excited about it. It’s going to be a lot like Christmas to wait to see what’s in the packages.”
Carroll knows the mission – add young impact players to an aging roster. Now it’s up to general manager John Schneider to make sure the plan is properly executed. Schneider, 38, was hired in part because of his where he comes from – the Green Bay Packers – a franchise known for drafting and developing young talent to fill needs throughout its roster instead of upgrading through free agency.
In Schneider, the Seahawks believe they have the right guy on the personnel side to help carry out Carroll’s driving philosophy of creating competition throughout the roster.
“The cool thing that Pete has going on in his program coming from USC, and I am sure you guys have heard all about it, is the competition at every position,” Schneider said.
“And that just fits perfectly into our philosophy in terms of how we want to build a team. We are going to just keep acquiring players and building competition.”
Seattle has nine picks heading into this year’s draft, including two picks in the first round at No. 6 and No. 14. And the team likely would be interested in trading down to acquire more picks to help replenish and rebuild the current roster.
“I’m always open to trading down,” Schneider said. “We took pride in that in Green Bay. We will continue to do that.”
But just hours away from the draft there is no consensus around the league as to who Seattle will select with its first pick.
Seattle likely needs an offensive tackle to replace Walter Jones, who appears headed toward retirement. A trio of young tackles, Oklahoma’s Trent Williams, Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung and Iowa’s Bryan Bulaga, are possibilities to fill that role.
And with defensive end Patrick Kerney retired and Darryl Tapp gone in a trade to Philadelphia, the Seahawks could use an outside pass rusher. Georgia Tech’s Derrick Morgan and Texas’ Sergio Kindle would fit in nicely.
Looking for an upgrade at safety with last year’s defensive co-captain Deon Grant now with the N.Y. Giants? Tennessee’s Eric Berry, Earl Thomas of Texas or Taylor Mays of USC could fit the bill.
Seattle also could add another quarterback into the competition between Matt Hasselbeck and newcomer Charlie Whitehurst by drafting Notre Dame product Jimmy Clausen. Or the Seahawks could go after the most dynamic player in the draft in Clemson running back C.J. Spiller.
The Seahawks’ needs are many, and include adding depth along both offensive and defensive lines, safety, running back, wide receiver, quarterback and cornerback.
Schneider understands that he cannot fill all of those needs in one draft class, so it will be important for the new Seahawks GM to balance need vs. selecting the best player available. If you listen to Schneider, most teams end up selecting a player in part based on need.
“It’s really fun to say we don’t draft by need, but you end up doing it,” he said. “It’s like when coaches talk about we need to limit our turnovers and (beef up) time of possession. It’s the same thing with this. I think you really try to take the best player based on need.”
In terms of evaluating players, Schneider said he left the draft board as it was originally built when Tim Ruskell was team president, with many of the staff members in the team’s scouting department holdovers from the former regime.
However, Schneider has added his own touch, putting a system in place that he learned from his mentor, former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf.
“I have added a couple different categories beyond the board into free agency that are kind of fun,” Schneider said. “In terms of the board itself, everybody that we have on our board is who we would draft. It’s definitely more conventional. ... It comes across looking more like a map then it does a consistent ranking all the way through the draft.”
Now that Carroll and Schneider have begun to lay their foundational philosophy, it’s time to bring in some impact players who match that philosophy.